Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What I am working on getting shorter and shorter...

frm Randall Brown in comment to a previous entry that I made to this blog -- “With your own writing, GO, how have you approached "short prose"? I'm curious about what you are currently working on to meet the demands imposed upon the writer of these short forms? Also, I've recently read some discussions about making Twitter's "character limit" add up to so much more than those 140 characters. Any thoughts about how that might be accomplished?”

I can give a long or short answer. I will try short and hope that it does not take too long to read.

I am not sure that I see short prose as being demanding any more or less than other forms, in general, possibly less demanding than say a good sonnet. A bad sonnet is not very demanding unless a reader considers bored doggerel a chore.

Demands are either external or internal. External being expectations of readers, critics, I suppose, the world-at-large, and internal being the demands the writer places on themselves.

Rowing a small boat is demanding on the rower, but if you do it regularly and often then it becomes a pleasure. So I would want to frame the question, How do we meet the pleasures of the short form?

So, as to working on, I am working on enjoyment in writing of the short form.

Other than that I spend a good deal of time looking around at what people are writing and what readers are reading. I could present my analysis of what I am reading, but here and now I will not.

Short prose, for me, is not new. My life, in construction, building a business, building community, networking at-large has been active and it has always been spattered with bursts of short prose as that is how it happens for me. My attention has always wandered and skipped about. I am happy that the world is catching up with what works for me, though as I have complained elsewhere everyone important in my life seems to be getting younger and younger.

I am intrigued by the interest in flash with a sort of humor one has of new people, curious strangers that show up in the side yard to pet an old dog.

There are so many young lions and fresh priestesses that it is all a dazzle to behold!

I recently ran across a quote from Cyril Connolly, it has been a long time since I have read his critical work, but it seems apt enough, “The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence.” Note that there is no indication here as to requirement of length.

As to Twitter, at one time I was told by a distraught reader that I should never write an e-mail longer than one page on the screen. So I wrote a serial novelette in weekly e-mails that went on, engaged with an active audience, for two plus years. Now we have Twitter, even shorter yet. I use it for glitter sprinkled in the hair or the bulbous red nose of a clown. Though I feel the best thing to do with Twitter is to point at other things.

Samuel R. Delany (I happened to meet and spend an hour talking with him one cold night in a bookstore, it was snowing, it was supposed to be a reading, but I was the only audience that showed – he has been teaching Creative Writing for 30+ years) in About Writing, his interview/essay Inside and Outside the Canon talks a whole lot about pointing at things. The more a thing is pointed at, let us say the more an author or a flash is pointed at the more likely it is that people will look at it. The more often it is looked at the more likely it will have an opportunity to be considered worthwhile.

Even if for no other reason it is worthless, trite, possibly drab, clumsy or stupid if enough people look at a thing it gains value for having been looked at. We are fortunate that eventually the collective forgets a whole bunch of stuff in fairly short order of appearance.

One can do same serializing w/ Twitter, but it needs to be kept exciting, lots of cliff hangers and plot twists... it needs to be fun. It also takes a bit of energy to consistently keep doing it and finding ways to make it work. I would tend to suggest that several writers could gather together as a collaborative and write line by line, hitting off of each other, trying to trip each other up, but there would need to be an overall structure of background rules for everyone to maintain their focus, and to make sure the story does not fall flat or meet a timely death.

1 comment:

  1. Love your idea about Twitter--and that idea of "the more a thing is pointed at" is very interesting. In compressed forms such as flash fiction, it is interesting how that "pointing" takes on a different weight and significance than in longer form. Very cool post. Getting "depth" out of brevity is always the challenge for me--and one that you continually meet, GO!